M.History p.II – Willem Bilderdijk

After the in the Netherlands so called Further or Second Reformation (Nadere Reformatie, beginning in 1606 with the ministry of the father of the Nadere Reformatie, Willem Teellinck, and terminating in 1784 with the death of Theodorus Vander Groe), there came quite a new period. Troubling through the French Revolution which made everything upside down, the early 19th century brought an end to the well established Netherlands Reformed Church, also called the Netherlands Protestant Church. In 1834 the Secession began and faith ceased from the public more and more. Once so faithful, now we are the first country in the world legalizing abortion, gay-marriage and so on. Tears are in my eyes when I’m thinking of the past.

One person who saw very clear the developments of that time was Willem Bilderdijk (1756-1831). He was not a Jew, but I have to mention him. He is the spiritual father of the Jews Isaac Da Costa and Abraham Capadose. In his thinking he was quite a Jew. He is also called the father of the Reveil. And I would call him the last prophet of the Netherlands. And I think not only for the Netherlands, but also the broader community, the ecclesia of Christ. Hewas the one who alarmed the people of his time, from the aristocratic class to the common people for the systematic and rational thinking of the Enlightenment. But although a few heartily agree, many were against and raised hate to him. The age was changing and the spirit of unbelief perpetrated into all classes.

Bilderdijk was a genius. He was very clever and was the (yes I’ll say that) the greatest poet of the Netherlands. His spiritual son Isaac Da Costa is the second. They both called directly the Spirit of the Almighty and not the Greek Muses. I wish you could read Dutch, you would certainly agree.

A huge repository of him is to find online here. And here a biography of him written by Da Costa. (all in Dutch)

Bilderdijk was surely the greatest fighter in the world against the ideas of the Enlightenment. He wrote many poets on the subject.

Bilderdijk saw Judaism strongly connected to Christianity in contrary of his contemporaries.

He was a great thinker and it would be great to tell much about him, but that didn’t fit in a document of Messianic history. However I think it’s good to quote here some excerpts from the excellent book of Dr. L. Engelfriet: Bilderdijk en het Jodendom. It has an English summary in it at the end. Here are some quotes concerning Judaism to learn something about Bilderdijk. (It’s really just a bit about this very special person)

Quotes:

… In his view the insight into the Divine status of the Messiah is common to the Jews. Christ is in the centre of the prophets. Therefore Christianity is a specialization of Judaism, the Christian is an insider in the Old Testament writings.

… Bilderdijk, however, sees essential characteristics of classic Judaism in Jewish liturgy and prayers and in Jewish belief in the Messiah characteristics that may on no account be given up.

…Bilderdijk is certainly the most important sympathizer of the Jews in the early part of the nineteenth century. His point of view is religiously determined. On the basis of this view he has resisted Jewish assimilation. He highly esteemed the old and noble Jewish people because it has been chosen by God. It must never give up its Messianic hope. His rejection of the assimilation does not in the least aim at the continuation of the social discrimination of the Jews, as is the case with many of his patriotic contemporaries, but is concordant with the fulfilment of the Old Testament prophecies that announced the coming of the Messianic kingdom in direct connection with the return of the Jews to Palestine.

… The poems which Bilderdijk addressed to the Jews, sometimes speak of Jewish guilt, but this is not directly related to the crucifixion. In the few instances that Bilderdijk establishes this connection elsewhere, he relativizes the Jewish share by calling the greater number of his Christian contemporaries and philosophers who adhere to the principles of the Enlightenment, much more guilty. According to him the most important misconception in the Jewish view of Jesus results from their inability to see the suffering and reigning Messiah united in one person. But in this misunderstanding he also sees a Divine decree. The Jews are still expecting the Messiah ben David. Strictly speaking the Christians have rejected this Messiah through having placed highest authority in the Roman principle of power (Boldness by me, JW. This is a core in his thinking.) which is concealed behind ecclesiastical power. Besides the church has arrogated to itself the lawful succession of Israel. Jewish origin and promise, however, remain in force. Through having failed to recognize Jesus the Jews have temporarily given up their birthright, but this will certainly retum to them. The Messianic secret remains the core of the Jewish people. Bilderdijk has great respect for Jewish exilian suffering because Israel’s God has made this subservient to the salvation of the nations. He continually encourages his Jewish contemporaries to cling to their Jewish hope, but wams them against the ideals of enlightened Christianity. Instead the Jews should widen their knowledge of their own tradition and should let themselves be guided by Moses, the prophets and the rabbins.

… In the decline of the visible church Bilderdijk sees a favourable circumstance for the breakthrough of Jesus’ Messianic rule. In this respect the Netherlands could become the centre of the invisible church. In his opinion Jesus’ way and kingdom avoid human unions and separations, but is prepared in the spirit.

… The Divine unity rules Bilderdijk’s thinking. This unity is expressed in the trinity. This is a mystery which is derived from Judaism. Jesus has instituted baptism in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit in conformity with the ideas which the right-minded Jews had about God. Jesus has respected the oral tradition, but has corrected what was misunderstood in this tradition. In the later Jewish tradition, which has been influenced by rationalistic views, Bilderdijk perceives resistance to the Christian thought of trinity, but in Jewish mysticism, in the Jewish prayers and in the liturgy he discovers this notion.

… Although Bilderdijk was friendly with several Jews as the enlightened lawyer J.D. Meijer, his contacts with Da Costa and Capadose are of decisive importance for the sounding of his view on Judaism. Just as Bilderdijk most Jews showed admiration for house of Orange and were opposed to assimilation. Bilderdijk has strengthened Capadose’s Jewish self-confidence. He thought that only the complete Jew can arrive at recognition of Jesus as Messiah. Messiah Jesus is the heart of the Jewish people. On the basis of the Old Testament prophecies Bilderdijk expected that the Jews would overcome the misunderstanding of the separation of Messiah ben Joseph and Messiah ben David. This recognition may lead to the Jews’ return to Palestine and the Messiah’s reign.

On the other hand Bilderdijk has drawn Da Costa’s attention by way of Jewish mysticism to the unity of Israel’s God and the Messiah. As a rule the rabbinical views are highly valued by Bilderdijk. This does not only apply to the old Jewish scholars but also to the later rabbins, though he sometimes differs from them in the application of prophetic pronouncements to Jesus as the Messiah. In his opinion the older Jews have recognized a plurality of persons in God’s inexpressible unity. Obviously Bilderdijk has not only spoken to Da Costa about the trinity according to the Christian tradition. He has especially attempted to trace back this artificial term to its original meaning. In doing this he draws attention to the Talmudic insight which speaks of three names to refer to God, consisting respectively of four, twelve and forty-two characters. This metaphysical connection between Judaism and christianity has made a deep impression on Da Costa. He thinks that the apostles have been acquainted with the cabbala, a Jewish form of metaphysics which contains an ‘infinity’ of Christian elements.

From a reference of Bilderdijk to the work of the rabbin Heydeck who had become a Catholic, it appears that he has at least wished to show Da Costa the truth of Christianity by way of the so-called Christian cabbala. Heydeck attempted to confirm Christian truth from Jewish sources. According to Bilderdijk true Christians are initiates in Judaism. (boldness by me) So Bilderdijk’s meeting with Da Costa is of a very special nature. It clearly differs from the pastoral contact between Da Costa and Egeling, who has guided him and Capadose to Christian baptism. Bilderdijk, who was not a communicant member of the Reformed Church, was very pleased at this. Bilderdi jk has honoured Da Costa as a kinsman of his Saviour and has impressed upon Da Costa the great weight of his descent from the old and noble people of Israel.

Together with Da Costa and Capadose he paid much attention to apocalyptical writings, to Daniel and the Revelation of John. In this connection also the mystical Jewish writings came up for consideration, especially the Zohar, and to a lesser extent, the Talmud. Egeling was not interested in this apocalyptical, mystical and eschatological way of thinking. Consequently his circle, according to Bilderdijk, was more limited. So Bilderdijk’s approach to his Jewish friends, properly speaking of Jews in general, clearly differs from the practice of the nineteenth century idea of mission.

Initially Capadose’s bond with Judaism is less strong. He is, to a greater degree than Da Costa, an advocate of mission to the Jews. However, Bilderdijk has not shown himself to be in favour of this mission and has made this clear to Capadose. He praises the courage of faith of Capadose’s ancestors, who were forced to secretly tum back to Judaism because of the iconolatry in Catholic Spain. Testifying to his great devotion to the ‘true’ Jews, Bilderdijk warned Capadose against breaking with his Jewish relations after his baptism. Bilderdijk has perhaps underestimated the resistance to baptism in Jewish circles, because in his view Jesus is the promised Messiah out of the Jews. At any rate Bilderdijk has fervently hoped for the unification of Jesus and the Jews. For David’s great Son has first of all come for Abraham’s descendants. With the Jewish believers he expected the coming of the Messiah, the assimilated Jews had been deceived by the Enlightenment and the French Revolution.

…[Bilderdijk sees] the ever returning manifestation of the ancient Roman principle, which resists the reign of the Messianic Deity. This principle reveals itself in various European powers and authorities. With this the Christian history of Europe completes Daniel’s prophecy. The repetition and the strengthening of the prophetic thinking shows itself also in this. Bilderdijk’s view is clearly theocratic in so far as he ascribes a prominent position in history to the Jewish people on account of God’s covenant with Abraham. In so far as the Jews are separated from Messiah Jesus, Bilderdijk has much regretted this, because the rise of the Messianic kingdom is dependent on this unity. But he has partly denied and put into perspective the separation between Jesus and the Jewish people, which in the history of the Christian church has been expressed and practised again and again, by pointing to his belief that most Christians are farther away from Jesus as Messiah than the believing Jews.

End Quotes

For me, Bilderdijk is an important person. He is my teacher. He taught me history, through him I learned the important age in which he lived. I saw the church, I saw the Jews, I saw the Moslims. I saw the beloved Person, the King of the world, the Messiah, His reign, His past and His future. And I saw myself. He gives me the building blocks of the age in which I live now. Without him, I probably couldn’t comprehend the age I live in.

His extremely high level of knowledge and understanding and yet his so minor feelings about himself and his confession to be the least before Gods face intrigues me. Bilderdijk gives the church of the Netherlands the ability to step out their sinful deviated way. But, too bad, nobody listened. In stead of, he was hatred. When he was born, a few hours later a brick was thrown through the glasses into his house. The world was against him. The truth was denied. That’s not exceptional: “they slew thy prophets” (Neh.9:26)

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One Response to “M.History p.II – Willem Bilderdijk”

  1. christian4moses Says:

    Very nice post Jos!

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